This Is Why I Still Don’t Have Internet: Cable Gore Porn

Valencia Cable Gore

This represents the phone/DSL box of the 10 units in my building. Each cable has a business card of a different technician attached to it; implying that if you’re making a change, you’re supposed to CALL ME FIRST. So, if you want to make any electrical change, you have to get, like, a half-dozen people on *71 speakerphone while you do surgery on this beast. This beast, in the underbelly of my house, oozes a curiously beautiful Kowloon-esque aesthetic. Normally I’d just try to tackle this a little myself, but there’s like a 50% chance I’d cut someone’s connection while doing so.

Technician is supposed to arrive tomorrow morning.

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Physique changes upon moving to San Francisco


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X-mas travel plans 2014

Starting and Ending in San Francisco:


On one of these flights I have a stopover in Vancouver, and it isn’t the one that goes through Victoria.

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Piracy Attempted to Save Dubloons; Deemed Infeasible

The housing market in San Francisco is 110% bananas. Here’s a map of the average 1 Bedroom price from February 2013. Here’s a more recent map that also covers outside the San Francisco peninsula. The gist is that $2800/month is lowest you can reasonably get for a 1 bedroom apartment these days. What sort of crazy scheme would you need to go cheaper?

Thanks to a post on the /r/sanfrancisco subreddit, I heard of a 91-foot-long sailboat pirate ship for sale for the cheap price of $50,000. I went into this as a joke, with the idea that this had a “5% chance of making sense”. The ad described a “Captain’s Quarters” with a Queen Bed, and two staterooms, one featuring a bunk bed. I figured I could rent it out, possibly AirBnB SeaBnB. In an email to the current owner, I said I was looking into using the boat as a landlord Sea Lord. The engine is seized, but I didn’t imagine needing to have it operational for a few years anyway, so bringing it to a maneuverable state was ideally a long-term project. However, upon seeing the boat, and doing a little finance spreadsheet whiz bang, with the cheapest liveaboard berthing fees of $9/foot/month coming to $819/month alone, I couldn’t see a way to make it make financial sense. Maybe if I didn’t have student debt, and didn’t mind if most of my free time was taken up with boat maintenance.

I have finished discussing the financial infeasibility of owning a pirate ship and we’re going to start talking about the pirate ship. Here’s the original ad:

We are selling our beloved 91-foot square-rigger, the Sultana, named for the original brigantine Sultana of which it’s a replica, built 1768 in Boston.

We lived aboard for many years, raised two children. We hosted events — Pirate Parties, receptions — dockside for years, and chartered throughout the Bay, active in the 1980s into the 90s, always attracting quite a bit of TV and newspaper coverage, out of Alameda, then Brisbane Marina, where it is now. Sadly, we had to move away for work.

The boat is extremely comfortable and roomy for living — also a great boat for a party.
It’s not a single-hander, but is very satisfying and exciting to sail.
* It’s 91′ overall; 57′ on deck.
* Built 1979 – 1985. Ferro cement hull. Composite overall — ferro cement, steel, wood.
* 9 sails in new condition (full set)
* From aft to forward: Large saloon. Then, dining area to port and full bar to starboard. Two steps down and Galley to port, head (w/shower) to starboard. Then, two double-bunked staterooms, both port and starboard. Next, Captain’s quarters, with sitting room on port side and queen bed starboard. Lastly, the forecastle.
* 3″-thick mahogany dining table seats 8 or 9.
* Aft saloon includes a player piano.

# Displacement approx. 60 tons.
# Beam approx. 20 feet.
# Groco head, should be replaced.
# 2 refrigerators, 1 freezer.
# Engine is GM diesel (needs to be replaced, as does rudder.)
# Elaborate carvings (some visible in photographs), wood figurehead, wormed, parceled and served rigging to replicate the original style. Needs some new ratlines and lanyards, and some general renewal.

If you would like notoriety and attention, this ship will supply it. Just cleaning the deck on an afternoon, you will be inundated by passers by and interested parties.

Asking $50,000 but will consider all offers.

(Was advised to add the word “Sailboat,” and so there it is!)

And here’s some pictures:

Here’s a scan with the Structure Sensor:

Interesting anecdote: met the now-mid-20s lady who lived on the ship until she was 6. Said she wasn’t aware that other families didn’t live on boats until much later. Lucky!

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Moving to San Francisco; joining Occipital

Two days ago, I finished the second-to-last draft of my thesis and, a couple hours later, my first full watch-through of Star Trek: The Next Generation. And now it’s time for another transition!


I’ve lived in Toronto for 6 years while doing grad school. I got to participate a ton in the improv, theatre, and nerd communities and they are all fantastic. Alas, I’m moving on to somewhere else. Pending US VISA stuff, I’ll be getting on a truck with my stuff and navigator/housemate Sean in a week and a half and heading to San Francisco to work for the amazing company Occipital.

Occipital makes the Structure Sensor, a small-format depth sensor that currently fits on the back of an iPad for scanning people and interior architecture. They ran a wildly successful Kickstarter almost a year ago, and have one of the creators of OpenCV on their board of directors. During my interview process we talked about some of their future plans in the pipe, and I’m very excited. I’m their 19th employee, and my formal title will be Spatial Interaction Engineer. I’m looking forward to developing really cool interactions that take advantage of having spatial knowledge about our bodies and the world around us.

Coming out of grad school and figuring out what to do next is pretty bewildering. I’ll write more on that when I have real hindsight. While I like developing cool, new stuff, exploiting unusual sensors and extending art practices, I’ve always had trouble with academic writing. It just isn’t as enjoyable or enriching to me as crafting something new and interesting, which is why I got into academia in the first place. I’m into creative writing (like this blog), but academic writing has always felt like hard work, like I’m wading through a complex network of academic frameworks, justifications, and citations. This would be fine if writing or documentation was part of the job, but if you’re an academic professionally, it’s the primary way your worth is measured (I might be putting my foot in my mouth if I somehow change my mind and end up back in academia a years from now). During grad school, I’d find myself procrastinating writing often, and getting depressed over it. I have much to thank of the post-docs at my lab for forcing teaching me to manage my time better. I thought of trying to be an independent developer or artist for a bit, but I’m coming out of grad school with debt, and I’d like to get my hands dirty on creating for new technology as quickly as possible. I interviewed at quite a few places, and I loved the vibe of the people at Occipital, and their excitement about really affecting change in how the space around us is understood and manipulated. I leap-frogged into interviewing with Occipital after doing contract work writing a 3D sensor driver for Globacore, a Toronto-based video game company. It was a sweet deal.

Writing a PhD is an endurance slog. You can’t hero through it in a day. Here’s my commits to it in the last year. I’ll talk more about this later, when it’s done and publicly available.
phd_thesis github stats

If you’re based in Toronto, and want to hang out before I head off, let me know! I’ll probably be announcing a goodbye thing in a couple days.

Onwards and Upwards,

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Books that Stuck with Me

I meant to assemble ten (10) works of fiction or non-fiction that had been influential to me at some point. This proved hard, and for a while I tried to rank them so I could eliminate any 11+. I settled on splitting my life thus far into 3 periods: Childhood, Adolescence and Adulthood, and the books that were influential to me therein. The edges of these periods are pretty soft-edged, and I think, for me, I consider my adolescence going until 19 or 20 or something.


Collaboration – Mark C. Jarvis
This is a pretty obscure short story. I listened to its audio version on a booktape my Dad gave me. A lot. So much so, I can’t be sure if it is objectively good, but I feel like it’s pretty great. Several researchers discover that cetaceans can not only perceive the 3D world from audio returned from an echolocation, but can also project the 3D audio that represents such a return, and that is their method of communication, i.e. happiness = the image of a fish entering and being digested in a stomach. The researchers happen on a dolphin that is a wandering bard. Cultural exchange occurs. There’s a lot about this that was formative to me.

My Old Man and the Sea: A Father and Son Sail Around Cape Horn – David & Daniel Hays
Another book on tape my Dad made for me; a story of a father and son that built a sailboat and sailed around Cape Horn. From this, a got a love of travel, which I’ve done lots of, solitary thought, which I’ve also done lots of, and sailboats, which I haven’t done as much.

Extraterrestrials: A Field Guide for Earthlings – Terence Dickinson
This book is absolutely fantastic. I don’t think one should worry too hard whether it is grounded in science, but the book follows the pattern of presenting several possible worlds that are slightly different from earth, positing the kind of life forms that would live there, and then hiring an artist to draw them in a very serious, polished way that you could imagine illustrations in any natural field guide. Really formative for me.

The Search for Snout – Bruce Coville
Bruce Coville wrote several books that I read while on the emotional & adventurous roller coaster of being a young guy, and his characters often went through personally intense moments, which were obviously fantastical, but seemed so damn relatable in that clever way of knowing that young people will more easily think about their own lot if told indirectly about it, say, involving several humans and aliens working together to find an old friend.

Time and Again – Clifford Simak
On the side of the road in Surrey, in the suburbs of Vancouver, I came across a large cardboard box of sci-fi paperbacks. I don’t know where these came from, whether someone decided they outgrew them, or someone died, but this massively influenced my early development. This particular book was a formative book that I definitely read before the right age when one is supposed to. I’ve probably read it about 6 times in my life, and might again. 1000s of years into the future or so, an author makes a stand for the rights of artificial humans, which isn’t that interesting of itself, except that he finds out that he will write a book about it, before he even knew he had an opinion on it, thanks to some wibbly wobbly time travel stuff. Manifest Destiny as a philosophical idea appears. Good brain food. I should read it again.

Callahan’s Crosstime Saloon – Spider Robinson
Another book from my found cardboard box stash. It introduced me to alternative forms of non-hard-sci-fi, made me realize that good fiction should enable interesting ways of examining concrete life experiences. Spider Robinson isn’t my favourite author, but I’ve read many, many of his books since. My love of puns and wordplay is directly traceable to this book.


Mars Trilogy (Red Mars, Green Mars, Blue Mars) – Kim Stanley Robinson
Another book series I read really early, and then had to re-read later to properly get. I should probably read it again. These books started my decade-long aspiration to become an astronaut. I’ve since decided I’m not going to pursue the astronaut thing unless it’s colonization, not exploration, on the agenda. This book felt like hard sci-fi in a good way; focusing on the people. There’s a passage in there where a ship psychologist draws out a map where he sees the personality of everyone on the ship fitting in.

Calculating God – Robert J. Sawyer
Like The Search for Snout, this book seemed to hit me in just the right way, emotionally. I’ve since read lots more of Robert J. Sawyer’s work. I appreciate his work both because the character’s lives seem to be honest and imperfect, despite working, often, in a fantastical situation. And it’s almost always Can-Con.

Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency – Douglas Adams
Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is great, but it feels like several little scenes that are sketches on their own. I think the Dirk Gently books are far superior, as holistically, everything combines together to the end (into a literal symphony in this book). Damn, what a great book, which I need to read again. The situation with the couch stuck in the hallway is something I’ve always wanted to do a research project on.

Stranger in a Strange Land – Robert A. Heinlein
A great perspective-distorting book that was pretty influential to me. It’s odd that, in the modern era, sections could definitely be considered backwards, definitely misogynist, but it influenced me in thinking of other ways to be and live.

The Name of the Rose – Umberto Eco
I can trace my love of libraries and their architecture to this book. I was introduced to the movie first, which we watched in my undergrad Semiotics class. A good mystery book set in a monastery, before it was generally accepted that people can learn about the world by reasoning about it. A lost book of Aristotle’s Poetics, on Comedy, is a major plot point and got me interested in the philosophy of comedy. I’ve read a few of Umberto Eco’s books since, notably totally failing to finish Foucault’s Pendulum. Baudolino is pretty good.

Catch-22 – Joseph Heller
Definitely my favourite book. I think I’ve read it 3 or 4 times. It feels like a British Comedy, written by an American, with it’s deconstruction of bureaucrat thinking. It’s very, very funny – I have memories of dry heaving laughter during the first parts of the book. It’s non-linear narrative made James Joyce’s books more palatable when I got to them later. While the Rome sequence in Catch-22 is very depressing, the book ends on such a hopeful note I get a sense that the entrappings of bureaucracy are always, eventually, defeatable.

Impro for Storytellers – Keith Johnstone
I think Jim Davies is responsible for putting this book in my hands. I had performed improv for 3 or 4 years at this point, and for at least a year of that I was in a weekly show. This book really opened up analyzing the structure of improv scenes as a philosophy for me, and it all started coming together in my mind. An astonishing amount of theatre practice, especially unscripted theatre practice, is only passed down in an oral tradition, since there is never a need to write it down. I think that Charna Halpern and Del Close’s Truth in Comedy is a much better book, but it didn’t influence me as much by the time I got to it.


The Satyricon – Petronius
The timelessness of some of the classic comedy works is amazing. I’m also a big fan of Aristophanes, but I still think the Satyricon is a more impressive work. It doesn’t have to invoke animal metaphors (no problem with that, of course) to do its comedy. It’s just 2 dudes one a goofy adventure. It’s American Pie. It’s the under-rated Dude Where’s My Car? in ancient Rome. It’s great.

The Cyberiad – Stanisław Lem
Lem writes science fiction that feels like a fairy tale, justifying plot events by using scientific terminology, but in a hand-wavey way that lets you know it’s all for fun, but in a way that doesn’t feel offensive or stupid. I’m sure Stanisław Lem could write a script for The Core that would actually be good. His short stories are fall and full of ideas, and are great meditative brain food.

The City & The City – China Miéville
One could criticize this book for being high-concept: a murder plot MacGuffin set in a city that is actually two legally-separated cities, in legally different countries. The cities are separated culturally, not spatially, and occupants of either are able to size each other up and tell, by clothes or posture, what city they are in, and whether they are allowed to interact. This gave me some interesting perspective of the urban and social spaces I find myself in, such as standing on top of a glass skyscraper in India in a white-collared shirt and staring down at a slum. These sort of separated situations are not wrong inherently, certainly, just interesting to be aware of.

Schild’s Ladder – Greg Egan
Catch-22 is my favourite book, but Greg Egan is my favourite author. Schild’s Ladder is the second book of his I read, and the one that caught me. Permutation City was the first, but it left me feeling oddly depressed. I’d like to think of Greg Egan’s books, usually dealing with semi-artificial minds, as their own genre of fiction (mindpunk?). The moment in Schild’s Ladder that really caught me is when two agender lovers, finally undressing for the first time, discover the genitals of their artificial bodies are undergoing transformations to figure out a way to fit together, as unique snowflakes that represent each other, but also the relationship they share. That and the theoretical math foundations in the books is great. If you want a more palatable start to Greg Egan, Quarantine contains all the usual bells and whistles without being too confusing to the uninitiated.

Understanding Comics – Scott McCloud
This book gave me an appreciation for three things: (1) Visual communication, (2) Different ways to structure narrative, and (3) Concise explanations using the thing you’re explaining. #3 is the most-lauded part of this book. McCloud describes comics while drawing himself running around and point at different parts of the page. It’s as clever and illustrative as the definition of “Circular Reference” in a Computer Science dictionary pointing to “see Reference, Circular”. For any talks I do where I’m presented an technology I developed, I try to make as much of the talk a live demo as possible (I did this for my talk on LACES at CHI 2014)

Cryptonomicon & The Baroque Cycle – Neal Stephenson
I devour Stephenson’s extremely high-detailed descriptions of people, processes, events and ideas with voracity and endurance that no other author can match. Snow Crash is a great intro book to him. I’m currently in the midst of Reamde. One thing authors, or artists in general can do, is point to something we consider mundane, accepted, that we are used to passing over, and say “let me talk to you for a bit about why this is interesting”. This is Neal Stephenson. I gobble that shit up.

Y: The Last Man – Brian K. Vaughan & Pia Guerra
The first graphic novel series I really, really liked. I’m reading Vaughan’s Saga now and it is also excellent.

The Road to Mars – Eric Idle
Man, there’s lots of books on this list that have a “theory of comedy” as their theme. This is another one, combined with science fiction. I’d like to think that if I turned into a novelist somehow, this book most resembles the one I’d write. Two comedians with a spaceship of their own are travelling across the solar system doing comedy shows while on the run from the law and a terrorist organization. Interspersed are chapters from the perspective of their C3PO-like robot butler companion, who is working on a thesis on comedy, and questioning whether a robot could maybe, one day, be funny. If you liked Firefly or Cowboy Bebop, a bunch of different characters stuck in a tiny ship, you will absolutely love this book. This is all abstracted to another level as this book is intended as the apocrypha documents of a writer a generation after the main events in the novel, who is trying to rewrite what actually happened. And there’s a zero-G sex scene. This book has everything.

JPod – Douglas Coupland
I watched the TV show before the book. And liked it so much I read the book, and found it was entirely different.The characters and their starting positions are the same, but how the plot follows diverges, and both directions are reasonable. I’ve never found such a satisfying split in other works. It’s like Coupland put the effort into the character creation (the characters are great), and then set them loose, improvisationally writing plot. The characters, employees of a large video game studio that is blatantly EA in Burnaby, feel so obviously Canadian, but it’s hard to put your finger on why they do.

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Appears to Take on Meaning…

I’m in the midst of writing up my thesis, an unnaturally large document that I both want to just finish, but also have the urge to encapsulate every thought I’ve had in my life to this date. Some of my spare thoughts that don’t appear in that formal academic document will appear here.

Humans are storytellers. A human being telling a narrative story to you is active, and if you’re listening, you’re passive. But, humans can’t help but do storytelling of their own when confronted with random input. This is as unavoidable as turning off your sense of hearing.

I’ve observed that humans create meaning for seemingly unconnected things things. This can be a random collection of items at a checkout, which contain no explicit story, but a real human can’t help ask questions. A toothpaste and a toothbrush make sense and don’t contain an interesting story. Toothpaste and a drill imply some sort of amateur dentistry. Discarded pants on the ground aren’t interesting of themselves, but found early Saturday or Sunday morning, they appear to tell a different story.

What I find so interesting about this process is that you can’t help it. My thesis system, Improv Remix, is about video remix of theatre performance. While mashing up music can be primarily rhythmic, mashing up video of people speaking or moving feels primarily semantic. Although it’s an over-simplification, I like to think of these as little semantic tokens that can be re-arranged with different orders and relationships. This arrangement can be random, or it can be curated, or semi-curated. But the interpreter (observer if you want to think of meaning as resolved from lack of meaning in a quantum sense, or audience if you want to think of meaning as performed) is going to create an internal explanatory story either way.

I played with structured arrangements of semantic tokens a long time ago, with Rock Paper Scissors Infinity.

Semantic tokens is the term I’m using here, but I’m sure other people have used different terms elsewhere (if you know of one, comment please!).

Lee Kuleshov observed the Kuleshov Effect in film editing, where the meaning of a scene as interpreted by the audience as different based on the other scenes before or after it. There’s a couple ways to take this, and one really negative one is that “Oh no! There is no meaning and everything is constructed and artificial!” Whether this is true or not, I don’t think there’s cause for alarm. Meaning can certainly be manipulated, although I don’t like to use that word because it implies evil puppeteering, but there’s also joy in feeling your brain construct it. I’m a grad student, and some times I wake up without having bought breakfast yet. I don’t know why I felt that being a grad student adds to this story, but let’s leave it there. I walk to the corner store and very clearly buy something breakfast-y. Sometimes cereal and milk, sometimes eggs and bacon. That’s the entire contents of what I put on the counter, and I always feel, as if I need to justify myself to the cashier. “I swear I have my life together; I just forgot to have breakfast purchased.” But then, sometimes, on other days, I actually decide to go shopping in the morning, and then realize I only really need breakfast stuff, despite having already eaten breakfast. I feel the same urge to explain all this to the cashier, but then realize how insane that would make me sound, and my face takes on that pained grimace of someone trying to prevent himself from giggling during the entire transaction.

Here’s an example from one of Improv Remix’s performers, Oliver Georgiou, re-mixing semantic content.

The ability to record a scene while playing a previous one allows single performers to construct complex scenes, but exploiting timing and alignment. We will describe one example where a performer recorded a series of scenes to that were interesting to build, yet surprising in combination.

Scene 1: Acting like a duck, the performer waddles from stage right to stage left, occasionally looking behind itself. Finally, it turns around and waddles back slightly faster, to stand up and kiss an empty spot in the air.

The audience watches with curiosity. What is the duck doing?

Scene 2: [Recorded with Scene 1 playing] The performer stands on far stage right, repeating, as endearingly as possible, “Come here duck!” and beckoning as the duck, from Scene 1, walks away. Finally, the performer loses his patience and loudly yells “Hey duck!”, at which point the duck in the video turns around and starts coming back. The performer non-verbally encourages it, and picks it up and kisses it, saying “You’re so cute!”.

The audience laughs as the glances of the duck in Scene 1 are now explained. The performer leaves and returns to the stage wearing a heavy coat and carrying a newspaper.

Scene 3: [Recorded with Scene 2 playing] A dishevelled man stands on stage left reading a newspaper. The exuberant man from Scene 2 repeats “Come here duck!”, distracting the dishevelled man from reading the newspaper. Initially, the dishevelled man looks around, discerns that the exuberant must be not be speaking to him, and then looks back to his paper. As the exuberant man continues, the dishevelled man looks at him more angrily. Finally, the exuberant man from Scene 2 yells “Hey duck!” and the dishevelled man drops to the ground, ducking from possible danger. Seeing there is none, he charges the exuberant man, saying “Hey, buddy, what’s the big idea!?”. The exuberant man kisses him and the dishevelled man slaps him in response.

Later, the dishevelled man from our Constructed Scene was reloaded alongside our beat-boxer, where his angry looks now appear directed at the beat-boxer. I call examples of these surprising interactions Failed Dissonances: here, dissonance between two semantic tokens should occur, but it does not, it fails because our brains find meaning in them.

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Improv Remix Dailies

Inspired by The Wooster Group, we’re going to start making dailies for each day* leading up to the showcase. Below are the first two! Check Twitter or my YouTube channel for more as they come out.

* Not absolutely every day.

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Improv Remix Call For Performers: July 28th – August 3rd, 2014

Dustin Freeman and Montgomery Martin are looking for 3-5 performers of any age and demographic with a background in improv or comedy to collaboratively playtest a live video remix system. Performers will interact with an array of motion sensors and cameras to construct a series of original scenes from live video recordings to be presented August 1st to 3rd.

We are also seeking a volunteer stage manager and front of house for the public showcase, as well as volunteer technicians to assist with the assembly and operation of the technology and lighting during the week.

For a demonstration of the technology at work see this video:

And this website:

The commitment includes approximately 16-20 hours of rehearsal and performance (flexible) time, located at the Storefront Theatre in downtown Toronto.

For those interested, please send a brief description of any relevant experience.

Dustin Freeman
Montgomery Martin

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Metadata Secret Friends

In the future, there will be friendships consisting entirely in verbal form, with no digital record. These will be special, intimate, beyond anything analyzable by the machines we use on a regular basis today.

Kids will start doing this. It will feel fun and covert at first, but will gain a special meaning. Parents will be concerned about these special, secret friendships. If you have nothing to, why hide your knowledge of this person from the grand scheme of things?

We’ll have to meet these people in person, outside the view of digital security cameras. The most accidental of meet-cutes, without any digital pre-planning. We can trade addresses or names, but can’t trade email, or Facebooks, or Twitter handles, or phone numbers. The machines don’t own dates and times, so we can use those to coordinate, as long as we leave our phones at home.

“Future”, etc., what have you.

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